The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Franklin Remembers

His Fight for Freedom

Local libertarian leader Terry Franklin has waged many battles over the years on behalf of liberty, but none more strenuously than against Amherst Town Hall on behalf of the annual music and politics festival known as the Extravanganja held to oppose civil liberty violations caused by the drug war. The recent retirement of Amherst Police Chief Charles Sherpa was cause for reflection by Franklin on his many encounters over the years with local authorities and their attempts to undermine the festival. Franklin tried to get the local mainstream media to print this brief memoir but was unsuccessful. Therefore I am glad to offer this space to report information the rest of the local media would not.

The retirement, this past year, of Amherst police chief Charley Scherpa, along with that of Barry Del Castilho earlier as Amherst town manager, brings to a close an era. I dealt with the two of them as implacable enemies over the course of twelve years. With the "Extravaganja" coming up in a couple of months, and new authorities in office, now is a good time to reflect on the "confrontation" (Barry's term), and to clarify the history.

Why did we continue fighting them for so long? Why not just make a show of it for a year or two, for honor's sake, then quietly fold tents and call it quits?

More than anything else, we stuck with it in order to offer a lesson to their successors, and to other officials elsewhere, that there are Americans with stamina and dedication, willing to stand up for principles.

Nominally this was about Amherst's annual marijuana legalization rally. A review: I was summoned to a closed door meeting with the two gentlemen in question, where I was talked down to like a child, had my integrity insulted, and was effectively ordered not to embarrass the town by promoting the legalization cause in the media, "or else anything can happen." Afterward, in that atmosphere, the Cannabis Reform Coalition managed to pull off our rallies; but only by enduring everything from red tape requirements that went on seemingly without end, to physical intimidation, as when a team of mounted police marched their horses up and faced the audience, standing there in a scene reminiscent of that in "Doctor Zhivago," where the Cossacks attack the protesters.

We realized that if they would apply that kind of pressure to us, they would bully other dissenters as well. Someone needed to stand up to them.

Since I have often been press spokesman for several of the legalization groups in town, there may be some mistaken notions as to my views. People may think I smoke pot myself, think there is something good about it, support its use, or whatever. In truth, I could care less about marijuana, per se. I do, however, care deeply about scapegoating, picking on the weak, and pushing people around.

Marijuana laws are the most egregious example in our country of government intrusion causing human suffering. It is worth remembering that largely because of marijuana arrests, the number of black citizens in jail, on probation, and on parole, is, at any given time, roughly equal to the number of slaves held at the time of the Civil War.

The town manager and chief were tough adversaries. They did things I didn't agree with -- most notably, hurting third parties. At rallies in the late 90s, where police arrested 18 people specifically in order to put pressure on me to not speak with reporters. While it is true those 18 were in possession of marijuana, that would have been ignored had I not persisted in publicizing our issue as a valid political cause. The chief would have let us "get away" with "having a party," if we did it quietly and with shame. The way the chief was prepared to wink and nod so easily, gives one an insight as to how much "the law" really meant to him.

They played hard ball. In my responses, I kind of like to think I was able, a couple of times, to bat one back fast enough to make them duck. As to why they fought so hard, one can only speculate. There must have been some political hay to be made in attacking us; it had to be more than the mere enjoyment of trying to push people around, though I have never been able to see what they gained.

The side of Liberty did gain however.

I like to recall the story of Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy, right after their first meeting with Sheriff Clark in Selma. King reportedly joked: "When this is all over, we'll probably have to give him some sort of Civil Rights award."

In Amherst's case, among the winners, certainly, at the very least, is Free Speech. But I believe there is more. The trouble these men caused the legalization movement went far in promoting solidarity and vigor. They were instrumental in the passage of the 2000 local referendum vote on legalization -- leading to dozens of other similar votes across the state, and eventually to Question 2 in 2008, and to the proposed full legalization bill, which came up for a hearing before a committee of the Massachusetts legislature last October. [And another hearing in 2 weeks!] That, in turn, has inspired others all across the country -- including Ron Paul, Barney Frank, and Mike Capuano's legalization efforts on the federal level.

Thanks Barry and Charley for not leaving people alone.

And thank you Terry, for all you do on behalf of the cause of liberty in our Valley. And by the way, the date has been announced for this year's Extravaganja. It will be held on the town common on Saturday, April 17th. Here's a video I made walking back from last year's festival, showing what a financial boom the Extravaganja provides for the local economy.

UMass Scenes

Smiling trees in front of a UMass partyhouse after yesterday's snowstorm.

I doubt that a smile was the expression on this bike owner's face when he got out of class and saw this:

I like this tripped out art by Nina Garcia now on display at the Student Union Art Gallery.

Jay in his bathroom studio.


Anonymous said...

so the fact that the chief was willing to let people break the law and get away with it was not good enough? it had to be made widely known and thrown back in his face? small wonder he had a problem with being backed into a corner by people that were obviously breaking the law. this still has nothing to do with smoking pot, it's all about the law being broken and the chief trying to look the other way and not look bad for doing so.

Terry said...

That is why the chief's attitude was so insulting -- if he can get you to think you're "getting away" with something, you are acknowledging you are doing something wrong.

Imagine if the officer called to the bus where Rosa Parks was sitting illegally, had said "Ok, I'm going to let you get away with it this time. And you better appreciate that, lady." Should she have been thankful?

The fact of the matter is that before the confrontation, the rallies had been forums for rational discussions of the issue. The organizers routinely patrolled about, looking for anyone smoking, and telling them to "put it out, we are trying to be serious here."

It is the town officials who turned the event into the defiant smoke fest it now is (to my disappointment). People were put in a position of having to stand up to the police, to force them to back down.

toker said...


Anonymous said...

Yeah...the illegality of marijuana is kind of like slavery.

This is where you stretch the limits of believability and become a cartoon character. And I believe in the legalization of marijuana!


Terry said...

Thanks for the comment. It is good to get the perspective of others.

It is important to remember that the opponents of slavery were often viewed that way.

Take a look at the ridicule heaped on the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King was often depicted as fringe and silly when he was starting out, especially by the media -- go back and read the old newspapers.

One of the reasons this issue has been so slow to succeed, is that many of its own proponents don't take it seriously enough.

Perhaps one way of seeing its importance is to stop thinking of marijuana as a vice, and view it as a spiritual sacrament.

I know... bear with me....

I have very little contact with any sort of "drug culture," apart from seeing some users at political meetings... but I have been doing a lot of networking online lately, and have been struck with the thousands of websites out there covered with marijuana artwork of a mystical and iconagraphic nature.

Sure, in most cases, the proponent of marijuana isn't thinking in religious terms -- but that is really what is going on.

It's not surprising. Intoxication can bring about a feeling of mystical contact with the numinous. The ancient Greeks (who have a reputation for wisdom) worshiped the God of Wine, and had holy ceremonies where they got drunk off their rocker.

Now many will see this "religion" as silly. (Many will see all religions as silly.)

But part of the fundamental foundation of our civilization is the right to hold your own beliefs. The government uses force and violence against those who believe a certain way (for force and violence is what you authorize when you make something a matter of criminal law).

And the defense of Religious Freedom is something that is not silly.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Franklin your first name should be Benjamin!

Officer said...

Hey Franklin why are you trying so hard to turn kids on to drugs? Looking for business?

Terry said...

In all of my writings and speeches, I don't believe I have *ever* said that marijuana is a good thing, or that people should do it. My message has always been that people should be free to make their own decisions, and should be left alone when they do.

Anonymous said...

NEVER said it was a good thing?!

"Perhaps one way of seeing its importance is to stop thinking of marijuana as a vice, and view it as a spiritual sacrament."

Look, I am also in favor of legalizing it. It's not such a big deal and it consumes way too many law enforcement resources for what I believe to be a minor societal nuissance that can be tolerated just like alcohol and tobacco.

But that doesn't mean that Terry Franklin isn't full of shit. If the illegality of marijuana is akin to the legality of slavery, does that mean that people who differ from Mr. Frnaklin's opinion are the moral equivalent of the pro-slavery Southern Democrats of the antebellum era?

Yeah, and Franklin's going to use the old "personally opposed" red herring always trotted out by the liberatarians. Yes, he's personally opposed, but he thinks we should stop seeing it as a vice and start seeing it more like a spiritual sacrament!

And then he acts as if his own personal experience is with political types he meets at meetings and the occasional website he happens to stumble upon!

N.B. said...

Hey Officer Asshole, Terry Franklin has many friends so back the fuck off!

Terry said...

My reference to "spiritual sacrament" was an appeal to reality -- to a recognition as to why marijuana is ineradicable in society.

Think Christianity in ancient Rome. People were thrown to the lions. Sure, you could get some to recant their faith, to rat out their friends. But overall... it's 2000 years later, and they are still here.

I didn't mean to imply that I am "personally opposed." Personally, I don't see it as a big deal, one way or the other. But it's not really any of my business.

That is in contrast to the lawmakers who do... (and while the writer is a bit mixed up as to what I was saying in my reference to slavery) yes, they are bigots, and they should be treated that way, and not excused.

Anonymous said...

For pete's sake--will you quit comparing yourself to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King?!

You're a stoner, okay? Doesn't really bother me. But you aren't being forced to sit at the back of the bus because of the color of your skin.

Oh yeah, I forgot. You're not a stoner. Terry Franklin doesn't smoke pot, he just sort of heard about it from some people at some meetings and he's occasionally been to a website that he found on accident.


Anonymous said...

Terry Franklin is a true friend of Liberty. He deserves an award, not criticism.

Anonymous said...

I know him. He really isn't a stoner. Where do you get the idea that anyone working for legalization has some self interest? That is like dismissing the white ministers who went down south and marched with MLK as doing it cause they must have some black blood. Yes the civil rights movement. Anyone who doesn't see the parallel must be an idiot.

-- Sarah

bigass bonghits forall said...

if i was a stoner, i wouldn't be publicizing it's legalization....i think terry is smarter than that.

advantage franklin!

look up hookahville...a yearly festival which is a cop free zone for 3 days, nothing goes wrong, and the staties stay is a beautiful microcosm of what could be. do you know how many people die do to marijuana illegality? the gangs control it, and if you fuck with them , you are dead.

Bill D. said...

You want to know why a non-stoner like Terry works so hard on this. He was a fat nerdy kid, at the bottom of the pecking order in school. His only contact with other people was getting pummeled every day by bullies. That is until the hippies befriended him. Hippies are friendly to anyone.

But hippies have a fatalistic philosophy, so they don't generally do much to stand up to protect themselves. That is why they make such easy prey for the bullies of the adult world, the cops and government. So Terry does his best to be their bulldog.

Anonymous said...

N.B. as in No Brain, lmao

Tom said...

Bill, that is the most ridiculous psychological theory I have ever heard.

Terry said...

I would like to thank Bill, and Sarah, although I'm not sure *which* Sarah, and everyone else for defending me against the trolls.

But I don't want people to think this is merely the result of some historical / psychological antecedent. There are principled philosophical reasons for being opposed to Prohibition -- dating back to people as diverse as John Stuart Mill and Abraham Lincoln.

The Drug War is evil. It is one of the blackest marks on our civilization, and it needs to end.

For that writer who said marijuana was a "nuisance" to be "tolerated...." I'd agree that it can sometimes be a nuisance, in the hands of some people. But most people are fully capable of doing things in moderation. Basing policy on "worst cases" would be like banning cars because there are some reckless drivers.

To those who don't see this issue as a major one.... There are tens of millions of your fellow citizens -- including large portions of many minority populations -- burdened with a criminal record, and all that entails in constraining them throughout their entire life.

jim said...

call smokin pot anything you want to, but if it's illegal, all the rationalization in the world doesn't make it (or anything else that's illegal) legal. Get over it, be discreet and try not to act like a halfwit doper.

Anonymous said...

Being closeted and discreet is never going to change anything.

Now is the time to be defiant.

Anonymous said...

Looks like its been about a year since anyone has commented, still:

It's interesting to note all of the hard work and effort that goes into putting on extravaganja every year. I don't know how many of the attendees realize that in addition to the work of the individual CRC members each year, this event also has a tumultuous history behind it.

I did NOT know that extravaganja used to be anything BUT a "smoke fest" and it saddens me that that is what it is now. I sincerely wish I could have attended an event that could be described as a "forem for rational discussion." As excited though I am to attend extravaganja this year. I am for any attempts to give the event a feeling of legitimacy and productivity.